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Is There Hope for Robocalls? What the FCC is Doing About Phone Spam

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By Carlos Gamino

If you’ve received a robocall today – an automatically dialed call with a recording or a telemarketer on the other end – you’re not alone. Nearly half of all Americans receive at least one robocall per day, and some receive many more. By the end of 2019, nearly half of all calls placed to U.S. numbers will be robocalls and spammers, according to some statistics.

Part of the reason is that it costs less than $0.01 for a scammer to robocall someone. And the scams they use actually work, which makes it an enticing business idea for enterprising scammers. Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy at the Consumer Federation of America, said, “They obviously work often enough that more scammers keep entering the market. And it’s hard for law enforcement to go after every single robocall, because there are so many of them.”

But now the Federal Communications Commission is proposing that phone companies “block unwanted calls to their customers by default.”

The proposal won’t make telecom companies take action, but it will protect them from legal liability for blocking some types of calls. 

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says that the proposal is a lot like email companies filtering out spam messages and putting them in different folders. 

The big challenge for telecom companies is that it’s tough to figure out which robocalls consumers want, like calls from the school about closings and emergencies, and calls they don’t want, like robotic voices telling them that the IRS is going to toss them in jail.

FCC spokesman Will Wiquist said that call-blocking programs would have to be based on “reasonable analytics, like current call-blocking apps.” He said that the types of tools the telecom companies would need to provide would have to look for patterns like “floods of calls in the network or numerous short-duration calls.”

The FCC also wants providers to give customers an option to be more aggressive with call-blocking – a sort of “white list,” which most smart phones are already equipped to provide.

What Do You Think?

Would you like your phone company to filter out the calls it thinks you don’t want, or do you prefer to block numbers on your own? Are you concerned that phone companies, left to their own devices, will get it all wrong and filter out calls you actually want to receive? I’d love for you to share your thoughts on this, so join me on Facebook or on  Twitter and chime in!

Carlos Gamino